In some circumstances, an owner who intends to change the use of a building (or part of a building) must give notice in writing to the Council of that intention.

How is building use defined?

Every building is designed for a specific use and has to meet Building Code requirements that ensure it will be safe, healthy and durable when used in the way it was designed. If that use changes, the building may need to be altered to support the new use. The regulation divides the uses for all or parts of buildings into four broad activity groups:

  • Crowd activities
  • Sleeping activities
  • Working, business or storage activities, and
  • Intermittent activities.

The four broad activity groups each have a number of uses adding up to 15 uses overall. Definitions and examples for each of these uses are also given in Schedule 2 of the regulations.(external link)

When does a change of use occur?

A change of use occurs when:

  • a building’s (or part of a building’s) use, as defined in the Regulations, changes and
  • the new use has more onerous or additional Building Code requirements than the old use. The additional or more onerous requirements will usually mean that the fire hazard or the risk to life has increased in the building's new use.

A building consent may not be required:

  • where written notification has been received and the Council is satisfied that the building already complies with section 115 of the Building Act(external link) without the need for any upgrade; or
  • the proposed building work is exempt from requiring a building consent under Schedule 1, Building Act 2004. This includes provision for the Council to approve a discretionary exemption.

How to notify the Council of a change of use?

You can notify council of a change of use by using the Notification of proposed change of use form [PDF, 355 KB] (a Word version is also available [DOCX, 163 KB]) and send it to For hard copies, post to Consenting & Compliance Group, PO Box 73013, Christchurch 8154 or drop it off to the Council office at 53 Hereford Street, Christchurch.

The notification must be accompanied by sufficient supporting documents and reports to satisfy the building upgrade provisions of Section 115 of the Building Act 2004 which are outlined in more detail below.

Most commercial applications need to consider:

  • Access and facilities for people with disabilities to be assessed and achieve compliance that is as near as is reasonably practicable. This would include toilets, accessible routes and signage, among other items. The Council’s B-065 Accessible Facilities Report Template [PDF, 268 KB] is a helpful tool for this.
  • Means of escape from fire, fire rating performance and protection of other property to be assessed and a proposal made to achieve compliance that is as near as reasonably practicable. A design professional, fire engineer or someone suitably knowledgeable would need to provide a gap assessment against the relevant acceptable solution to determine whether the building is currently as near as reasonably practicable or some upgrade is required.
  • The structure of the building to be assessed and a proposal provided to achieve compliance that is as near as reasonably practicable.

Where the change of use incorporates a new residential unit there are further requirements to consider. The request for a change of use needs to address as nearly as is reasonably practicable compliance with all aspects of the building code.

The 'as near as is reasonably practicable' test is a weighting exercise and involves a sacrifices and benefits assessment where the sacrifices and difficulties of achieving full compliance are balanced against the advantages of upgrading. Protection of life is to have a high weighting in these considerations. For more information on as near as reasonably practicable there is guidance from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment(external link) (MBIE) website.

How will your notification be processed?

Your notification of proposed change of use will be assessed by a building consent officer and specialists as required. Depending on the complexity of the project this assessment is likely to be processed within 20 working days.

During the assessment we will:

  1. Identify and advise customer of any other authorisations that may be required - e.g. resource and building consent.
  2. Establish if the proposed use is a change of use under the Building Act.
  3. Assess if the building complies ‘as nearly as is reasonably practicable’ to the provisions in section 115.
  4. Identify and advise customer if any building work or upgrades are required to achieve ‘as nearly as is reasonably practicable’ for the required provisions of the building code.
  5. Provide the owner with written notice that either;
    1. the proposed change is not a change of use and does not require  notification or written approval, or;
    2. the Council is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the building in its new use will comply as nearly as reasonable practicable with the relevant provisions of the building code and therefore no upgrade is required, or;
    3. the Council is not satisfied that the building in its new use will comply as nearly as reasonable practicable with the provisions of the building code  and reject the change of use. A notice to fix may be sent to the owner if the building in its current use does not comply with the provisions of the building code.

Once you have submitted an application, you will need to pay a deposit fee as set in our Building Consents Fee Schedule. Once the application has been processed and the Council is ready to accept the change of use, all of the costs associated with the application will be calculated, and if required, a further invoice will need to be paid before the decision is released.

An application that is comprehensive, concise and clear will be faster for the Council to process. That means it will be considerably less expensive.

Neglecting to notify a change of use

When an owner neglects to notify the Council of a change of use that has already occurred, the consequences can be as follows:

  • A maximum fine of $5,000 may be imposed if it is found that the owner has committed an offence by failing to give the Council written notice before changing the use of a building.
  • If there has been work carried out that would have required Council approval then:
    • An infringement notice might be issued.
    • A notice to fix or a requirement that the owner apply for a certificate of acceptance might also apply as the Council still needs to be satisfied that the building in its new use will meet the requirements under section 115 of the Building Act.

More guidance

You may benefit from a pre-application meeting to discuss your project with Council officers.

You can also refer to the MBIE website – Change of use, alterations and extension of life(external link)

Email the Duty BCO at with any queries.